JOHESU strike won’t affect port screening for Ebola – Health Minister

The Chief Executive Officer NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu and the minister of health Isaac Adewole at the press briefing in Abuja on Lassa fever and Ebola.
The Chief Executive Officer NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu and the minister of health Isaac Adewole at the press briefing in Abuja on Lassa fever and Ebola.

The ongoing Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) strike, would not hinder the Ebola screening of travellers coming into the country as health workers in the port would not be joining the strike, Isaac Adewole, the minister of health, has said.

The minister disclosed this at a press briefing in Abuja on Thursday.

Speaking on the effort the government is making to reduce the risk of the disease being imported into the country, Mr Adewole said mechanism has been put in place at the ports and borders to screen travellers coming in and going out of the country.

“There will be screening at the airport and borders. We have also put in place a screening form to help track where people are coming from and go, as this will help improve surveillance,” he said.

The screening form will be particularly for people coming from the west Africa and central Africa region. An emergency surveillance activities at all land and airport borders has been set up so that we can keep Nigerians safe, he added.

Currently, there is an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo leading to some deaths.

“Part of the new measures to be taken include screening passengers coming into the country. Not only that, we will be screening incoming passengers, particularly passengers from DRC and neigbouring countries.

“We will also ensure we step up all activities screening people coming in so that we will not be caught unaware,” he said.

Ebola, like other infectious diseases has a tendency of spreading across border through human migration, if not well monitored.

In 2014, the disease was imported to Nigeria through a Liberian Diplomat who flew to Nigeria in an attempt to get to the U.S. after contacting the disease in Liberia.

As a result of this, eight Nigerians died from the disease and many others were infected. Majority were health workers.

The minister said to minimise the risk of importing the disease, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is currently coordinating a national working group that is assessing and managing the risk to Nigeria.

While alienating the fears of Nigerians on the likely import of the disease into Nigeria, the minister advised Nigerians to cultivate the habit of personal hygiene and not just depend on hand sanitizers as prevention from the disease.

He said hand sanitizers though good should not be solely relied upon as preventive mechanism for contacting the disease as hand sanitizer is not a means of preventing Ebola.

Mr Adewole explained that Nigeria is in close communication with development partners, including the World Health Organisation, who are in Congo to monitor and respond to the situation.

“The port health services unit has been placed on red-alert and will heighten screening measures at ports of entry.

“Letters of alert have also been sent to all states to enhance surveillance activities and an advisory note for the general public,” he said.

Mr Adewole said Nigeria has the capacity to tackle the disease because the country has learnt a lot from the 2014 outbreak which claimed eight people in the country.

He said over the last few years,”we have strengthened our health security infrastructure to effectively prevent, detect and respond to infectious diseases including Ebola.”

The Federal Ministry of Health says it remains committed to ensuring the health and safety of all Nigerians.

The World Bank, through the regional disease surveillance systems enhancement (REDISSE) also released $90 million to help tackle surveillance and response of disease in the country and other African countries, the minister said.

The Chief Executive Officer, NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, said Nigeria would not be having problem tackling the disease because there are health experts in who assisted Liberia to tackle the disease in 2014.

He said REDISSE is focused on strengthening the disease preparedness and response architecture in West African countries, including Nigeria.

He said the main priority for NCDC is to develop a robust public health emergency preparedness and response system in other to tackle any disease outbreak in the country.

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